This all happened because a twitter post, and a whim. I didn’t know what applying meant. I didn’t know what to expect once I got there. But because of that I found myself waving to the crowd like a debutante in a parade.
I’m naturally extroverted – off the scale really – but I didn’t think that my wave would make me have to speak in front of everyone. At least not again. I already did that in the 1-minute impromptu pop talk where I called HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS, “bad news bears”. But unbeknownst to me a microphone stand had spontaneously spawned into the middle of the room and I was suddenly surrounded by the unbridled cheers of >50 people I met just the day before.
These were voices that were previously engulfed in active discussion, exploring the importance of science advocacy, giving insightful critiques and ideas on pre-prepared pieces, sharing experiences that ripple through populations of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals in science, and repeatedly speaking to the importance of story telling within science communication. They were voices that passionately shared projects, initiated collaborations, and supported everyone around them. Most importantly, they were the voices of so many individuals that I am so happy to now call friends. At the time, however, their cheers didn’t stop my nerves from creating a newfound vibrato to my voice, echoing throughout the room as I spoke of a mystical magical beast named Ed and recanted the worst 4 hours of my graduate career – which was neither my prelim nor my doctoral defense, mind you. And I’m not sure if those cheers would stop them now one month after.
Nevertheless, I continued. Telling how my carpal tunneled hands, which relentlessly typed page after page about HIV’s specialized form of viral spread that allows the virus to continue to exist in HIV positive individuals despite medication, also fumbled my laptop to create the softest thud on the off-white carpet of my living room floor. This thud wouldn’t mean much under normal circumstances except that thud damaged the flashdrive containing the only finished copy of my doctoral dissertation. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that. And *yes* I knew that you weren’t suppose to do that before this even happened. What I didn’t know though, or even expect, was that I would be standing there in the middle of the room, telling this story and being cheered on by the organizers, invited speakers, and fellow participants of the 2017 ComSciCon National meeting where I had a 4.7% chance of being chosen. Especially not from a twitter post and a whim.
Hi all, I hope you enjoyed that story! There was no better way that I could think of summarizing my experience at ComSciCon17 than by putting what I learned into practice. This experience was very transformative and so worthwhile. What’s best is that this conference is created by graduated students for graduate students. I hope to be a part of this as an organizer in the future and encourage all students to apply!